Woodworking is a messy task in which the woodworker is likely to breathe numerous particulates which are really bad for the health in a long run hence cutting down on the amount of dust one breathes while doing this job is essential to breathe better and stay healthy in a long run.
The best way to solve this issue is by getting a woodworking dust masks or respirator mask but while you are looking for such a mask, due to the various modes of these masks available in the market, you may get confused about the mask in which you should invest. Hence, we have tried to clear this confusion of yours by giving adequate details
1. How Does Using a Woodworking Dust Mask Protect Me?
A respirator or dust mask will help in keeping your lungs clear of debris, hence protecting your health. You may have a great dust collection system at your workplace but still, you need to wear the mask to protect yourself for safety purposes.
Just wearing a mask will not really help unless you wear the right mask. If you prefer a disposable mask, then you can go for an N95 mask which is as per the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standard and is also cheap and easily available. The mask has an adjustable nose tab that should be pressed to fit you right. Also, as you are using a disposable mask, you should change it as soon as it gets dirty or you find difficulty breathing through it. As you are using this mask while doing woodwork, hence you will have to frequently replace it due to the contamination of the mask.
Make sure to never use a mask that has only one strap to hold the mask behind your head as the seal will never be good in such a case. Use a woodworking dust mask that has at least two straps to hold the mask to form a tight seal around your mouth and nose.
2. How Should I Avoid Fogging of the Eyewear While Using Mask?
Wearing a woodworking dust mask may fog your eyeglasses or protective goggles when you breathe out, then you need to switch to a disposable respirator with an exhaust valve. This valve allows the exhaled air to escape easily which will prevent your eyewear from fogging. But if you have some infection which you do not want to pass on to your co-workers, then you should not use an exhaust valve as the air your breath out passes through this valve without filtering which may pass on to other people working next to you if they are not using a protective mask.
3. Is There an Alternative to Disposable Woodworking Dust Mask?
There is also a reusable dust mask that is made of cloth and is lightweight which makes it comfortable to wear. This mask is washable and reusable and a greener alternative to the disposable dust masks. This reusable mask uses the same filter to provide you cleaner air to breathe, the only difference is in the material of construction of the mask. This mask also can be used along with an exhaust valve as discussed above.
4. My Woodworking Shop Looks Clean, Do I Need a Mask?
The shop floor may look clean due to fine filters and dust collectors, but the residual dust is invisible to eyes and maybe high hence without you even doing the woodwork yourself, you may fall sick due to the quality of the air. This is why you should always wear a respirator mask when you are on a floor where woodwork gets done.
5. Which Respirator Should I Use if Paper Dust Masks Do Not Suit Me?
Many people do not find paper masks comfortable as the masks seem to not work that well even when they are NIOSH approved because of many factors such as a high level of particulate matter contamination or a bad seal. Whatever may be the reason, if you feel you need a different and much comfortable mask then we strongly recommend you try a dual cartridge respirator mask. These masks come in three different sizes for you to choose from and much more comfortable than the paper masks. The main issue with paper masks is that the leak is far too much which can be avoided using this respirator which can form a good seal giving you maximum protection.
6. What Mask Should I Use If I Suffer from Wood Dust Allergy?
If you have a wood allergy, then you cannot take any chances with the dust protection as it needs to be the best hence a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) unit is the best respirator mask option for you. These respirators use a battery-powered fan to blow the filtered air to your face for normal breathings. This mask creates positive pressure inside which means that air can only flow from inside of the mask to outside and can never flow the other way hence even if there is a seal break, the impure air from outside will not enter the mask through the leaks. This mask also does not cause fogging issues; hence this mask is both comfortable and convenient to work with.
What Mask Should I Use If I Have a Beard?
If you have facial hair or beard, then any regular mask or respirator will leak due to the uneven surface on your face forming an inadequate seal with the mask causing leakage. Using a disposable N95 mask is not advisable due to the higher leakage rate. A respirator mask with a filter also will not be effective, which may allow fine particles to enter the mask through the leaks. Hence you will have to switch to a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) with a full-face helmet mask covering your entire face or head so that clean air is supplied to you by filtering the air and blowing the clean air to you via the battery-powered fan. This is also effective if you have allergies as the seal is effective.
Make sure that the mask you get is NIOSH certified as you will also find some local and cheap knock offs that are not NIOSH certified hence, they do not guarantee adequate protection that you need to work in such an environment.